Why This Modern Kitchen Is the Perfect Fit For This Historic Home

Modern kitchens can feel out of place in historic homes. Not this savvy remodel.


The client’s request turned out to be a challenge: fill the kitchen with modern amenities and make it look like they’ve always been in the 1880 home, a mix of Victorian and Queen Anne styles.

Brian Polster, founder of the design and build firm THREE SIXTY, brought expertise to this project from rehabbing old commercial spaces such as Café Benelux, where the goal was also to “hold onto the character of the old.”

This East Side kitchen was gutted, keeping only the original floors. The existing quarter-sawn, white-oak flooring was sanded and topped with a water-based clear coat. New cabinets were sanded down to imitate antique aging. “The only thing that stayed where it was is the [location of the] sink,” says Polster.



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Another goal was to “marry a commercial kitchen vibe with a residential kitchen,” he says, by avoiding a high-end but harsh stainless-steel aesthetic and adopting a softer look. Open shelving made of reclaimed timber adds a rustic element, and existing millwork was replicated in the cherry cabinetry.

A clever custom tweak was used to hide a pitfall common in historic homes: a bathroom adjacent to the kitchen. Now, a hidden panel between the two rooms creates access, avoiding the need to leave one room to enter the other. “It’s kind of a ‘Scooby-Doo’ door,” says Polster. “It’s meant to look like a cabinet.”


Photo by Matt Mitschke

Concealed outlets inside the soapstone-topped island – with a quick tap, the panels open – allow the homeowner to tackle work emails over morning coffee. Carrara marble countertops enable light to bounce in the new space, an aspect nearly unheard of in Victorian-era kitchens, while the milk-globe glass pendant lighting is a timeless touch. Track lighting pinpoints dedicated to work areas, like a laptop on the counter or a saute pan on the stove. 

Photo by Matt Mitschke

The window above the kitchen sink fills the space with bright light during the day. Even with shelving for storing servingware, it remains unobstructed thanks to floating shelves crafted from reclaimed timber. Subway tiles, which were first seen in a New York City subway station in he early 1900s, adorn the kitchen’s walls. 

Photo by Matt Mitschke

Because the homeowner “loves his dogs like children,” explains Polster, he needed a custom dog-feeding station. Pull-out cabinets keep tall bags of food out of sight but within reach, and a dedicated faucet under the counter fills the canines’ water bowl without messy spills or splashes. Dishes were intentionally mounted at the recommended elevations. 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s October issue.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.